Sabbatical Journal: Watercolor Workshop

I attended a watercolor workshop in Bend, Oregon, from August 5-9. Our teacher was the famous Australian watercolor painter, Herman Pekel.

Herman is passionate about watercolors: “I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t paint,” he said. He’s a bit eccentric and excitable. Sometimes he gropes for words, then says, “You know what I mean?”

Each day he would paint two watercolors, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. He would paint the first wash, then stop and allow us to copy him at our easels, then he would bring us back to his easel while he painted his second wash and finished the painting. He was very patient as a teacher and came around to each of us to offer advice and encouragement.

I learned a lot and came away with new tools and skills to help me improve my watercolors greatly. Here’s what I remember of his teaching.

  1. Find a place in the shade. 
  2. Ask yourself, “Why am I painting this?” Visualize the painting before you begin.
  3. Paint the first wash wet-into-wet to establish the background colors.
  4. Paint the second wash to create shapes in the mid-ground and foreground.
  5. Paint with dry brush technique to establish details.
  6. “Always find an excuse for a patch of white.”
  7. Always keep some “sparkle” on the paper.
  8. Use expressive brush strokes.
  9. Get the proportions right.

Each night the group went out to dinner at one of the great restaurants in downtown Bend. It was fun to relax with my fellow artists and enjoy joking around and good conversation.

To keep my costs down, I camped each night at Tumalo State Park on the banks of the Deschutes River, about 15 minutes from the hotel where the workshop was held.

Here are some of the paintings I made.